On November 5-6, 2015 the industry association European Bioplastics held its 10th annual conference on “Shaping smart solutions” in Berlin, Germany (FPF reported). The introductory presentation was given by Douglas Mulhall of the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University, the Netherlands. Mulhall focused on the cradle to cradle philosophy and how bioplastics can take a leading role in the circular economy. He pointed out that the ingredients giving polymers functionality, such as additives, coatings, adhesives, and inks, play a key role in making materials fit for the circular economy: They need to be healthy ingredients. When designing a product, the question to keep in mind should be “Can you eat it?”, because in the circular economy ingredients will end up in the food chain. Mulhall urged businesses to identify positively designed ingredients that do not pose problems to the environment or human health. These positive chemicals shall be individual to businesses and ensure competitive advantages. The circular economy requires businesses and people to redesign the way we make and do things, Mulhall stressed. This is where he sees the opportunity for the bioplastics industry to take a leading role.

The morning sessions of the first day focused on policy and regulation, as well as on market developments of bioplastics. Reinhard Büscher from the European Commission’s (EC) Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SME’s (DG GROWTH) stated that the main objective of the EC’s circular economy package was to become more resource efficient and create new markets for secondary raw resources. The afternoon session dealt with materials, products and processes. Companies Corbion, Perstorp and Floreon presented biopolymer and copolymer products (e.g. polylactic acid, PLA) to be used for food contact materials (FCMs) and other applications. Company Innovia Films presented its flexible bio-laminate food packaging solutions made from cellulose film and other biopolymers.

The morning session of the second day provided a platform for brand owners and retailers. Per Stoltz of IKEA announced that their goal is to make 100% of their plastic items from renewable or recycled sources by 2020. Stoltz admitted that this goal is ambitious, but pointed out that it is essential to integrate sustainability into normal business practices. Kevin Vyse of retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) talked about food and food packaging and the role of bioplastics. He pointed out that the creation of biobased and biodegradable polymers cannot be separated from the circular economy. He noted that consumers have linear behavior (buy, use, dispose) and M&S is taking responsibility to get them to change to circular behavior (buy, use, recycle). Vyse also stressed the importance of healthy packaging with healthy ingredients for both consumers and the environment. In the afternoon session biobased feedstocks for bioplastics were discussed. It was agreed that agricultural sustainability standards should be in place no matter what end market the crop is used for (e.g. food, feed, fuel, or plastics). Further, it was emphasized that sustainability considerations ultimately aim to ensure the security of the supply chain.

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European Bioplastics (2015). “10th European Bioplastics conference.

European Bioplastics (December 2015). “Big success: 10th European Bioplastics Conference attracts more than 350 experts from around the world.